by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Generally Tampa Bay is viewed as a team that builds it’s roster from within. That requires a farm system that is consistently pumping out high-end prospects, but when you look at this list they appear to be lacking in that regard. While the top two names carry high-end potential, once you move past them there are significant questions. Is there upside? Sure, but there’s also significant risk and concerns. Let’s take a look at how things currently shake out and what names we need to know:
1) Brent Honeywell – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
Generally known for an ability to develop young pitching, Honeywell is a name that people need to become accustomed with in short order. Selected in the second round of the 2014 draft he’s shown an impressive ability to both generate strikeouts and control the strike zone since being selected:
- Strikeouts – 9.2 K/9
- Walks – 1.9 BB/9
He’s listed at 6’2” and 180 lbs., so there’s room for him to grow and further add velocity as he continues to mature (he’ll turn 22-years old just before the start of the 2017 season). Couple that with a screwball, which is rarely seen (and he is highly effective with), changeup and curveball and you get the makings of a top of the rotation star. While we’d love to see a few more groundballs, it’s splitting hairs. Blake Snell has gotten all of the attention, but Honeywell deserves his share and the dup provide significant hope for the team’s long-term outlook.
2) Willy Adames – Shortstop
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
It would be easy to argue that Adames and Honeywell are 1 and 1a, as they both have significant upside. Adames is still developing, but he has shortstop of the future written all over him for Tampa Bay. His power isn’t there yet, though he took a step forward in 2016 (31 doubles, 6 triples, 11 home runs), and he’s shown a good command of the strike zone (walk rates of 11.8% and 13.0% over the past two seasons). The patience and willingness to draw a walk may be helping to lead to his increased strikeout rates (27.0% and 21.3%), so for now it’s something that we’re willing to overlook.
Adames certainly has the potential to develop into a 20/10 type middle of the order hitter, something that obviously can’t be ignored. If he sticks at shortstop he’ll look that much better, though there are some who are concerned he will ultimately need to be moved off the position. Time will tell, but there’s an awful lot to like.
3) Casey Gillaspie – First Baseman
Grade – B
ETA – 2017
You could call him a “safe” prospect, but there’s some upside potential. Splitting time between Double and Triple-A last season Gillaspie hit .284 with 18 HR (as well as 34 doubles and 2 triples) and 64 RBI. He’s also shown a good command of the strike zone at each stop, which is important for a player with his type of power potential:
- Double-A (357 PA) – 22.1% strikeout rate, 16.2% walk rate
- Triple-A (203 PA) – 18.7% strikeout rate, 10.8% walk rate
The fact that he’s a switch hitter who produced solid slashes against both RHP (.313/.387/.515) and LHP (.289/.396/.533) at Triple-A adds to the appeal.
4) Joshua Lowe – Third Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019
The 13th overall selection in 2016, Lowe was highly regarded both as a hitter and pitcher entering the draft. He showed a great command of the strike zone (37 BB over 173 AB) across two levels of Rookie Ball, though he needs to improve his strikeout rate (59 K). He’s only 18-years old, though, so that shouldn’t come as a significant surprise and he will need time to develop. We’ll have a much better idea of his upside value after the 2017 campaign.
5) Jake Bauers – First Baseman/Outfielder
Grade – B-
ETA – 2018
The Rays system takes a bit of a step backwards after the Top 2. That’s not to say that Bauers is a bad prospect by any stretch, but his value comes from his pure hitting ability as opposed to any other skill. Sure he has a little bit of power (14 HR represented his career high) and a little bit of speed (10 SB in 16 attempts), but is that enough from a player who may be a first baseman? A 15.3% strikeout rate vs. 12.6% walk rate at Double-A is highly impressive, but he could profile more like a James Loney type first baseman. That’s not generally a comparison anyone wants to hear.
6) Lucius Fox – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
It was a disastrous debut season for Fox, but the speed is there and he has the potential to be a dynamic top of the order bat. He played a lot of the year as an 18-year old, so give him time before writing him off.
7) Justin Williams – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
8) Jacob Faria – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
9) Garrett Whitley – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
10) Chih-Wei Hu – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: